South Africa is preparing for the time when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available while working to prevent further transmission of the virus, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Wednesday.

“To ensure that South Africa is able to access an effective vaccine as quickly as possible and in sufficient quantities to protect the population, the country is participating in a global initiative supported by the World Health Organization to pool resources for the development and distribution of a vaccine,” the president said in a televised address to the nation.

Through this initiative, South Africa joins other countries in supporting several vaccine development programs and seeking equitable access to successful vaccines at a lower cost, according to the president.

“Through our position as chair of the African Union, we have been advocating for equitable access across the globe so that no country should be left behind,” he said.

South Africa is also investing in its own capacity to produce and distribute a vaccine locally so that the country can play a key role in the effort to expand access to vaccines, said Ramaphosa.

South Africa, he said, “is already participating in three vaccine trials, demonstrating the capability of its scientific community.”

Although South Africa has made great progress in containing the virus, the country will continue to maintain its healthcare capacity to ensure that it is able to manage any possible outbreaks of infections effectively, and to ensure that everyone receives the care they need, the president said.

“The Department of Health is working closely with trade unions and other stakeholders to ensure that all healthcare and other frontline workers have the necessary personal protective equipment and safe working conditions,” he said.

As of Wednesday, the country has recorded 653,444 COVID-19 confirmed cases, with 15,705 deaths, according to the Department of Health. –Enditem